Let me begin by stating that I am a football fan, but I'm not a fan of any one team. I don't allow emotion to interfere with my enjoyment of sports. I am the ultimate unbiased evaluator. And I'm not bragging about it. I recognize that this makes me weird.
The reason I wanted to clarify my fan status from the jump is so that both Cowboy and Cardinal fan are clear that I'm not sucking up to my local audience when I write that I'd rather be a Cardinal fan right now than a Cowboy fan.
And as a person who spent his childhood in St. Louis with the Cardinals, and his adulthood in Phoenix with the Cardinals, I never dreamed I would someday make that statement.
Oh sure, if a war broke out between Cowboy fans and Cardinal fans, the Cowboys would win in a bloody landslide. Strength in numbers and all that. But I'm not suggesting that Cardinal Nation is about to rise up to supplant the Cowboys as "America's Team," or even "The Southwest's Team," or even "Certain towns right here in Arizona's Team," for that matter.
No, what this article is about is that if these two trains were leaving the station today, at the exact same time, and I didn't know where they'd been -- only where they were headed and what they were carrying -- I would prefer to hop aboard the Cardinal train.
Once upon a time, the Cowboys owned the Cardinals. Heck, I grew up just outside St. Louis, and there were far more Cowboy fans in my third grade class than Cardinal fans.
But those days of Cardinal fans embarrassed to be seen in public wearing a red jersey are long gone. And admittedly, there are still a lot of visiting jerseys seen in the stands on game day, but the growing passion for the home team is how you sell out every game since the new stadium opened.
And as for that dreaded on-field Cowboy intimidation, it's gone as well. Dallas won 13 straight games over Arizona prior to 1997. In the 18 head-to-head meetings since, each team has gone 9-9. Oh, and since '96, the Cowboys have posted one playoff victory. The Cardinals have five.
The Cowboys and their championship history give their national fan base barroom bragging rights in nearly every city in America. But the young fans, those who aren't yet old enough to attend bars, they aren't sure why Great-Uncle Eddie goes on an on about when Roger Staubach used to own Jim Hart. All they know is that the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in 2008, and "that they guess they were in diapers or something" when the Cowboys last qualified in 1995.
Several factors have contributed to this strange turn of events, but I believe the power shift can be mostly attributed to the ego of Jerry Jones.
Jones should be in the board room, not the war room. The man is undoubtedly a great businessman and product marketer, but he is a poor talent evaluator who refuses to surrender the responsibility. As long as Jerry's signing the checks, Jerry's going to continue to bungle draft picks and overpay veterans he doesn't want to accept he was wrong about.
Take Tony Romo. He's not a bad quarterback, but he's not a good one, either. Romo's great weakness is that he makes bad decisions in critical moments, and he doesn't seem to be improving in that area. And yet, he was given a six-year, $108 million contract this offseason. That's right, Tony Romo was given more money after missing the playoffs than Joe Flacco was given after having won the Super Bowl.
Cowboy fans can certainly make the argument that Tony Romo is an upgrade over Carson Palmer. But, Cardinal fans can argue, if Palmer doesn't work out, we're only into him for $6 million guaranteed. How's that $55 million guaranteed for a seasoned bumbler taste?
"Well, Jerry Jones can't live forever," Cowboys fans might argue. True. But guess what? Jones isn't going to leave the franchise to Jim Harbaugh in his will. No, his sons will get the team. And history indicates they'll be far worse at running the organization than Dad.
Jim Buss, Mike Brown, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, Mike McCaskey, and let's not forget Bill Bidwill.
The Cardinals were Bill Bidwill's Dad's team. All Billy Boy did with the franchise was make it the worst-run organization in sports for 30 years. Then, his son took over, learned from Dad's mistakes, starting spending some money, and has finally put the personnel decisions in the hands of people who actually understand football. That is not likely to happen in Dallas.
In other words, for those Cowboy fans who say it can't get worse, yes, it can. Al Davis didn't become sharper the older he got, Jones is NEVER going to fire himself, and Jones' kids have been groomed to take over.
The Cowboys still have many advantages over the Cardinals. Their home stadium makes the Taj Mahal look like a three-bedroom apartment. Therefore, the team will continue to generate more revenue than any in sports. But as a fan, how much pride do you take in Jerry Jones' bottom line when the team just finished another 8-8 season?
Texas doesn't have a state tax, which is another fine advantage of note. Free agents not only want to play for the "star," they get to keep more of their money by signing with the Cowboys. And that's just great for all the terrible free agent signings Jones has made the last decade. Umm, 8-8.
Look, the Cardinals certainly can't compare with the Cowboys in terms of team history. They didn't even have a better team last season, and might not have one this season. But it seems to me that the Cowboys' direction is locked in place, where the Cardinals have a new general manager pulling all the right strings, a growing fan base, a great stadium of their own and an ownership group that has removed itself from meddling where they simply don't belong.
Cardinal fan can finally hold his/her head high and look toward a brighter future, where Cowboy fan can still hold his/her head high in celebration of their past.
Which train are you hopping aboard?